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On the MySpace private photos torrent

So, here is a scenario playing out live…

– Lots of people post things to social network sites.
– Some of these things are private (friends/family type of private).
– The users understand and follow the rules, and protect themselves.
There is a bug in the system.
– Their private stuff is now available to anyone.
– Someone grabs the content.
Then redistributes it anonymously and efficiently.

What we’ve not seen yet…

– Talking heads blowing it out of proportion.
– Reactionary bad law passed to ‘fix’ it.

Hopefully, with more mainstream news coverage and widespread understanding and adoption of better privacy practices and controls, we won’t get to the point where we have any more bad law. But I wouldn’t bet on that happening.

As of this writing, there are 4 seeders and 340 downloaders on thepiratebay torrent link. 17GB of photos. 567,000 images.

Yes, I’d say this has blown up.

Word of Caution

We sometimes forget we’re in uncharted territory. We are playing with the new shiny toys of the internet and not necessarily understanding the implications. These tools provide great power across the board. Users gain abilities to connect, find, sort, and publish in ways never before available. Conversely, companies gain abilities to monitor, gather, and sell more personal information than ever before. Additionally, third party observers gain the ability to observe at a distance and in numbers never possible in the physical world.

And we don’t yet know all the rules.

With all these new powers, our nuanced understanding of how we interact and the ramifications of our various ‘digital’ actions have not kept up with our abilities. We don’t know how these things “break” yet.

I would argue that this MySpace leak (as well as the Facebook minifeeds and Beacon) are examples of how these systems can break in explosive ways – ways that were not possible, and on a scale that was not possible before we were ‘hyperconnected’ and ‘always on’.

Please pay attention to what you post. Please think through what happens when it is made public. Please consider how our systems break – because it’s rather a question of “when and how” than a question of “if”.

Update: Fred weighs in, referencing this post
Update: Michael Zimmer referencing Fred

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  1. Chad | January 24, 2008 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

    I agree that these things couldn’t happen before we all became interconnected, but at the same time should we really be surprised? Users are pouring media into these sites…Do they think it is under lock and key somewhere? The best privacy option I have found yet is for photos/videos on pixamo.com

  2. Terrell Russell | January 24, 2008 at 4:18 pm | Permalink

    No, surprise really isn’t the issue. It’s more about education, expectations, and balancing efficiency and our need for ‘ooh-shiny’ with proper risk-management.

    If it really shouldn’t be online – you really shouldn’t put it online.

{ 5 } Trackbacks

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